Person A: どんな ときに しゅくだいを する ことが できませんか?

Person B: きょうしつで とか かいしゃでは できません。

I understand what 「で」is doing (indicating the place) but what about 'wa' in this case?

thanks in advance

  • 1
    ↓↓Indicating the topic -- The は here is more like the contrastive は, no? Related: japanese.stackexchange.com/a/1121/9831
    – chocolate
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 2:41
  • To me, it's only a problem if you call it "secondary topic" or "contrastive marker".
    – user4092
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 3:39

2 Answers 2


Indicating the topic. 会社では as for at the company, I can't study.

Why do I need to input 30 characters?


Like Fireheart said, は is indicating the topic, but I'd like to expand a little bit to explain why it's there.

First, let's go back to the question that was asked:

どんな ときに しゅくだいを する ことが できませんか?

Though there isn't a は in the sentence, the gist of the question can be understood as "When/In what situations can you not do your homework?" As Speaker B (and presumably you) understand, the answer to the question is going to primarily consist of times/places - they will be the topic of the answer. As such, Speaker B replies:

きょうしつで とか かいしゃでは できません。

とか here is acting like や to indicate an incomplete list of situations, so for simplicity's sake let's think of きょうしつで とか かいしゃでは as one unit (I'll use かいしゃでは), but remember that you generally need to add で to the end of each entry.

かいしゃでは できません。"When you're at work you can't do [your homework]."

Is what we end up with. It might seem like は isn't doing a ton here, but consider the nuance of the alternative:

かいしゃで できません。 "You can't do [your homework] at work."

Though this isn't wrong per se, it's not responding directly to the question that was asked ("When can't you do your homework?") by marking the answer's salient information.

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